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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-343
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-343
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 06 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 06 Jan 2020

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Storm Tide Amplification and Habitat Changes due to Urbanization of a Lagoonal Estuary

Philip M. Orton1, Eric W. Sanderson2, Stefan A. Talke3,a, Mario Giampieri2,b, and Kytt MacManus4 Philip M. Orton et al.
  • 1Stevens Institute of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering, Davidson Laboratory, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030, USA
  • 2Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460, USA
  • 3Portland State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Post Office Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, USA
  • 4Columbia University, Center for International Earth Science Information Networks, P.O. Box 1000, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
  • anow at: California Polytechnic State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA
  • bnow at: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture + Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Abstract. In recent centuries, human activities have greatly modified the geomorphology of coastal regions. However, studies of historical and possible future changes in coastal flood extremes typically ignore the influence of geomorphic change. Here, we quantify the influence of 20th Century manmade changes to Jamaica Bay, New York City, on present-day storm tides. We develop and validate a hydrodynamic model for the 1870s, based on detailed maps of bathymetry, seabed characteristics, topography, and tide observations, for use alongside a present-day model. Predominantly through dredging, landfill, and inlet stabilization, the average water depth of the bay increased from 1.7 to 4.5 m, tidal surface area decreased from 92 to 72 km2, and the inlet minimum cross-sectional area expanded from 4800 to 8900 m2. Total (freshwater plus salt) marsh habitat area has declined from 61 to 15 km2 and intertidal unvegetated habitat area from 17 to 4.6 km2. A probabilistic flood hazard assessment with simulations of 144 storm events reveals that the landscape changes caused an increase of 0.28 m (12 %) in the 100-year storm tide, even larger than the influence of global sea level rise of about 0.23 m since the 1870s. Specific anthropogenic changes to estuary depth, area and inlet depth and width are shown through targeted modeling and dynamics-based considerations to be the most important drivers of increasing storm tides.

Philip M. Orton et al.
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Short summary
The geometry of estuaries is often altered through dredging to make room for larger ships, and with extensive landfill over wetlands for development. Here, we use historical maps to help create computational models of seawater flow around and into a lagoonal bay of New York City for the 1880s and 2010s. The influence of these past manmade changes is to cause higher coastal storm tides, and we show that they result specifically from deeper depths, expanded inlet width and eliminated floodplains.
The geometry of estuaries is often altered through dredging to make room for larger ships, and...
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